As the new year rolls in, Americans tend to take stock of the past and reflect on aspirations for the future. While many people focus on what they want to do—travel, work out, learn a new skill—there’s also a lot of attention paid to what people want to stop doing.
When struggling with an addiction or bad habit, many Americans turn to the internet for help, looking for reliable information, advice, or to connect with a real world resource, like a medical detox center. We recently analyzed Google search data across the U.S. to determine what Americans are most eager to quit in different parts of the country. From alcohol and sugar to biting your nails and kicking caffeine, this post explores the different substances and habits Amercians are focused on quitting the most.
- Alcohol, tobacco, and pornography are the top three vices Americans are trying to quit, according to Google data.
- “How to stop biting nails” was the second most-searched term out of more than 100 we analyzed.
- Quitting sugar was the most unusually common search topic in 19 states, the most for any category.
The top habits people want help quitting
Just as varied as the habits people want to quit are the ways in which they seek help. Not everyone asks for help in the same way, and we wanted to be sure our data accounted for this.
When it comes to Googling for help, people tend to use common search terms , so we calculated the total search volume for each category by combining the volume for each individual term. For example, if people typed “how to stop smoking weed” or “how to stop smoking marijuana,” we put the number of searches for both in the “cannabis” category, along with other related terms.
Whether they typed in “how to quit drinking” or “how to stop drinking beer,” more people searched Google for help with alcohol addiction than any other habit. Americans also want to stop using tobacco and watching pornography, as these two habits made our list in second and third place. Cannabis-related search terms came in fifth, with people entering queries like “how to stop smoking weed.”
Amidst a list of very medically serious habits and addictions, nail biting came in as one of the top five behaviors people most want to quit. More Americans looked to Google for help to stop biting their nails than for help with sugar, caffeine, junk food, gambling, or cannabis.
What Americans are trying to quit most by state
The habits Americans most want to quit may vary by state, but states have one thing in common: Their residents have at least one habit they’d like to get help with to quit. While you may think of alcohol and smoking as habits that people want help to quit, you may be surprised that sugar registered particularly high in searches. Sugar showed up as the most unusually popular search term—as compared to national search volume—in more than a third of U.S. states.
While cutting the dessert after dinner can seem like a dealbreaker to some, many states clearly have residents who wish to kick the sugar habit. Perhaps because a sugar habit doesn’t come with the same taboos as other habits Americans wish to quit, people feel more comfortable asking for help. On the other hand, many see sugar as a substance that can negatively impact an individual’s health and contribute to major health concerns including higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease, which could be the cause for such high search volume.
Tobacco came in second, with more than a quarter of states having unusually high search rates for quitting. The majority of the states were in the Southeast, a few in the Midwest, and one in the northeast. Although Americans have been searching how to quit tobacco at an above-average rate, no one in the Southwest or West has looked for help quitting tobacco as such high volumes.
Whether you refer to it as weed, pot, marijuana, or cannabis, residents in five states are searching more than average for help to quit the plant. While most of the states on the list have completely legalized the use of marijuana, such as Arizona, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New York, other states on the list like Florida, ban the use of recreational marijuana but allow it for medicinal purposes. None of the states where the use of marijuana is fully illegal reported a high search volume in terms of residents seeking help to quit.
Unlike other habits or addictions, pornography offers a different kind of consumable, and Americans in the most populated states are trying to cut their consumption. California and Texas are ranked number one and two in population, and both make the list of states looking to quit porn. Another state on the list that shares a spot on the top ten most populated states list, is Georgia.
Replacing their adult drink of choice with something non-alcoholic seems to be the goal for a few states in the West and Midwest. Interestingly, the state of Washington, the second biggest wine-producing state in the U.S., make the list of states with a high search volume for searching for help to quit alcohol.
With the Strip making a splash in Las Vegas, and Atlantic City offering a place to roll the dice in New Jersey, it may come as no surprise that those states had a high search volume for help with gambling. However, you don’t need to be near a big city with flashy casinos to make the list. Illinois also made the list of states searching for help with a gambling habit, but with the access to riverboat gambling and horse racing in addition to the access to online gambling, this habit has the capability to touch all regions.
A surprising exclusion of the top searched categories ranked by state is junk food. Although it ranked in ninth place of the top categories Americans are trying to quit, the search volume wasn’t higher than average. With added sugar being a major component in popular junk food choices, one would think making a diet change would have at least made the list.
It’s interesting to note that many neighboring states had high search volumes in the same category. So next time you think you’re alone in trying to quit a bad habit, think again, you may be surrounded by more people than you think who can understand your battle.
How we search for help to quit
Although individuals seek information online using endless combinations of words, general patterns emerge over time. Within each category, we looked at the specific search terms Americans typed into Google.
One single search term rose above all others: “How to quit smoking.” The phrases tied for second place included “how to stop drinking,” “how to stop biting nails,” and “how to stop watching porn.”
As for the specific search terms in each category, every one had the terms “quit” or “stop.” Stop-related terms led the list for alcohol, nail biting, pornography, cannabis, sugar, gambling, and junk food (for example, “how to stop watching porn”). People trying to stop smoking and caffeine preferred the word “quit” (for example, “how to quit smoking”).
Although smoking topped the list for specific search terms, people searched quitting vaping, but in a different way. Instead of searching for “how to quit vaping,” most people were very specific with the type of electronic cigarette they needed help with and typed “how to quit juul.”
When it comes to addictions and bad habits, Americans shouldn’t feel alone in their struggle. Searching Google can help, especially to find resources and support in the real world. If you or someone you know may need medical detox for an addiction, Gallus Medical Detox is a one-of-a-kind inpatient medical detox facility designed to support people with substance use disorders. Using the Gallus Method, we prioritize our patients’ comfort and safety as we guide them through the detox process. For more information about substance use and our facilities, check out our blog.
In December 2022, we analyzed more than 100 Google search terms related to addiction and behavior quitting, including U.S. state-level data. The combined search volume reported represents a 12-month rolling average.